HC Deb 23 July 1973 vol 860 cc1151-2
27. Mr. Radice

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what further conversations he has had with the CBI and the TUC about the regional employment premium.

The Minister for Industrial Development (Mr. Chataway)

I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member on 2nd July.—[Vol. 859, c. 18–20.]

Mr. Radice

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are widespread rumours that the Government are going to reverse their policy on the regional employment premium or at least put something very like it in its place? Will he remember his democratic obligation to tell the House of Commons first about the Government's intention rather than wait for the parliamentary recess? Will he tell us what is really happening?

Mr. Chataway

Consultations are being held with the CBI and the TUC, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a statement as soon as possible. I am afraid I cannot give an indication of when that is likely to be.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the regional employment premium is vital to Scotland, which gets about £40 million of the £200 million which is going? Will he take every possible step to ensure that if such a subsidy is removed it will be replaced or phased out in such a way that Scottish industry will not suffer?

Mr. Chataway

My hon. Friend's views on this matter have been known for some considerable time but he will none the less recognise that, in assessing the matter, one has to consider the cost effectiveness of the premium and the likely contribution it makes to the long-term solution of the problems of a region. He will also recognise the very substantial success being achieved by the present measures under the Industry Act, including the fall in unemployment and the significant upturn in investment in Scotland and other regions.

Mr. Varley

Is not that a complacent reply? Does not the right hon. Gentle- man agree that the overwhelming evidence from both the CBI and the TUC is that the premium should be retained? Will he give an assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he is to make an announcement about the retention of the premium, will make it to the House and not to another body?

Mr. Chataway

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will take account of the point made by the hon. Gentleman. It would certainly be consistent with his past practice for him to give the information to the House at the earliest opportunity.